JOHN H. RAMSEY
SENIOR FELLOW, REASON FOUNDATION
FOUNDER, THE BILL OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES(R) PROJECT
Please join us on September 15, 2022 at 3:00ET for an important Webinar entitled Fixing America’s Fiscal Mess-- A Time For Advanced Citizenship hosted by Reason Foundation. I will be one of three presenters and will discuss how The Bill of Financial Responsibilities® is the right solution for our nation's troubled financial management. https://reason.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5PdVMRnwRAyD4La99bCgMg
EXCERPTS FROM MY WRITINGS...
After they voted in the election of 2016 dozens if not hundreds of women in and around Rochester, New York visited the grave site of Susan B. Anthony and affixed their “I Voted" stickers to her headstone, covering the marker with their quiet expressions of gratitude to the steely spinster who had died one hundred ten years earlier never living to see the success of a half-century of her labors to enable women in America to vote.
2016 marked the first time in the history of the United States that a woman led the ticket of one of our two major political parties as their candidate for the Presidency. And on that November day, on that milestone, for those women of Rochester and for millions of others throughout our land the suffragettes of the 1800’s and the first twenty years of the 1900’s were their Greatest Generation. They had worked tirelessly for almost 70 years, starting in the 1850’s, to secure every American woman’s right to vote.
Campaigns for rights are that powerful. Rights are clear, unambiguous. Rights are personal. You have them or you don't. You own them or you don't. You can look them up online, on Wikipedia, in a table, in a list. In America’s persistent quest to form a more perfect union groups of citizens have been working on enshrining individual rights in our Constitution since the 1780’s.
Campaigns about rights stir the soul and focus the mind, both for and against. The issues involved seem clear. They produce fiery rhetoric, passions, and often violence. They are marathons of long-term persistence that wear down and wear out opposition.
When enshrined in our Constitution, declarations about rights are permanent contracts between individuals and their government, setting forth both authorities and limitations. Some are very specific, while others like the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, are more sweeping and general.
POWER THROUGH PROCESS
There is a second, less dramatic but potentially much more important method by which The U.S. Constitution carefully defines and allocates federal governmental power. It is the power which derives from descriptions of process, descriptions that in our civics classes we learned to call checks and balances.
Instructions about process, however, the distribution of power within a government, or between government and the people, or between one government and another, are often of much less interest to the citizens because we cannot clearly see how they are important to us personally.
Process issues do not appear to affect us very much, even when they really do. For example, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Vice President Lyndon Johnson became President. The Vice Presidency remained vacant for the next fourteen months, until the 1964 elections, because there was no process set forth in the Constitution to fill a vacant Vice Presidency between elections. Since the need for a sitting Vice President to accede to the Presidency arose so infrequently, there seemed to be no rush to fix this particular absence of process. In February, 1967 the 25th Amendment was adopted quietly and without fuss setting forth the process we employ today.
Good thing it was decided, because seven short years after its adoption the new 25th Amendment process was needed, and not once but twice. The first time it was used Gerald Ford was appointed by President Nixon and confirmed by the House of Representatives to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew who had resigned. The second time it was needed Richard Nixon himself had resigned. Then Vice President Ford became President, and Nelson Rockefeller, appointed by President Ford and confirmed by the House of Representatives, became Vice President. This was the first and so far the only time in our history that neither the President nor the Vice President of the United States had been elected by the people. Had there not been the 25th Amendment the turbulence of President Nixon’s brief second term might have been much more challenging to our constitutional system than it turned out to be.
A few short years later our people also witnessed two attempted assassinations, of Presidents Ford and Reagan, each of which was a close call. We might have needed the 25th again.
Process issues are very important. And the founders knew it.
The genius of our founders enabled them to produce a Constitution filled with important process instructions that have produced a functioning government for our Republic for more than two centuries. It is a testament to the effectiveness of their work that new process issues do not come up very often, and when they do they can often be resolved by debates among elected officials, as was the case with the 25th amendment, rather than by some sort of national campaign and plebiscite.
But now we have a process challenge unlike any we have yet faced in our history and the old way of securing process changes to our Constitution will not work the way it has in the past. We must create
OUR SILENT CONSTITUTION
Few would argue that in modern times the most significant expressions of our Federal Government power are in the areas of taxation, government spending, regulation, and the acquisition and management of funds to be held in Trust, such as Social Security and Medicare, for future payments to the people. Yet the U.S. Constitution says almost nothing about how these critically important activities are to be conducted or constrained.
Moreover, there are no references in the Constitution to the proper rules regarding regulations or accounting. Unglamorous topics, to be sure, but the omissions are dangerous.
When our federal system was established it was intended that the size and powers of the Federal Government be limited, and that government operations not even represent full-time employment for elected and appointed officials. Most of the governing was supposed to be done by the States.
For many years customs duties were the major source of revenue for the Federal Government. We did not have very many full time federal employees. We did not maintain anything like standing armed forces. When war came we recruited men and geared up for it. Until as late as 1964 the budget of the entire Federal Government was less than $100 billion.
Now we have something very different. Now our Federal Government employs millions of people, taxes and spends about $4 trillion per year, reaches deeply into almost every aspect of our lives and commerce, and enacts complex laws some of which are as much as 2,500–3,000 pages long, and that is before creating regulations to implement them.
At such a time in history when our National Government has grown so large and powerful, one would think our Constitution should be updated to be more specific and detailed about how we should limit and control such extensive expressions of governmental power as taxation, spending, regulation, accounting, and management of huge amounts of money earmarked for our retirement and our health care.
But the Constitution stands silent, the abuses continue, and the problems get worse.
Most of us have heard some version of a joke with the punchline “I am from the Federal Government and I am here to help you”. Nowadays the exact opposite is true, and it is no joke. We The People must help our Federal Government, and We The People are the only ones who can.
The financial management of the Federal Government a mess. It has been a mess for a long time and it is getting worse. If we don’t fix it, and fix it soon, our national government could go broke. And if that happens, the consequences will be far worse than the right solution adopted right now.
The good news is that there is a solution, and we need only our common sense and our collective will to make it happen. We The People must adopt a Bill of Financial Responsibilities(R) in the U.S. Constitution- five short amendments that provide a common sense, clear set of rules for our elected and appointed leaders to properly manage the $4 trillion we sent them every year. They have all been written and are ready to go.
Sounds like somebody else’s job, doesn’t it? No it isn’t. It is what a free people do when the government of the people that we created gets off course. It is what a free people do when their elected officials can’t, or won’t.
Don’t let anyone tell you this is too complicated, too “inside the Beltway” for the people to accomplish. Could it become a lawyer’s dream, with smoke-filled rooms full of lobbyists and academics producing sneaky minutia that nobody understands? Not if we do it right and really put the people in charge of doing it.
It is time to stop listening to political scorekeepers picking nightly winners and losers, punctuated by partisan name-calling reported 24/7 on cable-TV and social media.
There is a better way. Let’s do it together.
OUR LEGACY (CONT'D)
in our beloved Constitution a few crucial process imperatives to control and improve the financial management of the vast sums of money that we send each year to our national government and the expenditures and regulations that flow from it.
The Bill of Financial Responsibilities(R) Project makes the case that we the people need to summon for critical process changes the same citizen passion, devotion, commitment, fervor and stamina that in the past has been reserved for campaigns about rights. We the people have to change process. We have to become convinced that critical process changes about money and regulation matter to us as individuals as well as to the whole nation.
This is an overarching problem that cannot be resolved by elected officials. We know that because officials have been aware of the situation for about 80 years and have done nothing about it. They are too much a part of the way things are to change them.
If we fail to do it the future of the United States as a nation will be significantly jeopardized and may even be much less wealthy and powerful than it is today.
This time we the people have to do it or it will not get done.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen,
on the occasion of his retirement, told America he thought the biggest threat facing our nation was our national debt. The man who every day in his job had to evaluate threats from nuclear annihilation, cyber terrorism, asymmetric jihad, chemical and biological warfare, global poverty, and environmental devastation told us that our self-inflicted national debt was the worst of the lot, and could metastasize and destroy this extraordinary nation that has taken so many two and a
half centuries to build.
With respect for Admiral Mullen, and gratitude for his service, the problem is bigger and worse than our enormous national debt, which
is why The Bill of Financial Responsibilities(R) Project was founded.
The U.S. Federal Government is in very bad financial shape. It is too
big, spends too much, wastes too much, and intrudes too much, all
as a result of decades of fiscal mismanagement and failure to limit abuses of federal power.
Lacking Constitutional constraint, or intervention by the people, our national elected officials have...
created a complex and unmanageable tax system set forth in 75,000 pages of the Internal Revenue Code, a code that now
permits one in five large, profitable U.S. companies and 47%
of our citizens to pay no federal income tax at all while our government is drowning in debt;
appropriated for most of the last 85 years continuous deficit spending resulting in a cumulative federal debt exceeding $30 trillion, despite explosive growth in our nation’s economy;
authorized 170,000 pages of regulations, many of which may
not be authorized in law;
borrowed (misappropriated) approximately $3 trillion of Social Security and Medicare funds to pay other federal government obligations thus jeopardizing the future availability of resources mandated by law for legitimate healthcare and retirement benefits to our people; and
employed improper accounting that massively understates the extent of Federal Government financial liabilities.
Almost a century of Federal mismanagement has steadily weakened
us as a nation and could, if not fixed, result in the collapse of our currency, our economy, and perhaps even our entire Federal Government. The extent and difficulty of these problems is rapidly
growing and absolutely nothing is being done to solve them.
It is time for we the people to step up and fix this, once and for all.
The Bill of Financial Responsibilities(R) will outline how.
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